Review: David Hockneys A Bigger Picture

Review: David Hockneys A Bigger Picture

With queues around the block and tickets selling on eBay for eye-watering figures, the hype surrounding the David Hockney exhibition has been difficult to miss. Many will be familiar with Hockney’s work from the 1960s, most notably ‘A Bigger Splash’, painted during his self-imposed exile in California, after declaring that he preferred the weather there to that of his native Yorkshire. This exhibition, however, focuses on Hockney’s landscapes, particularly those of recent years, following his return to east Yorkshire.

The first gallery sets the scene with a series of four large paintings of ‘Thixendale Trees’ (2008), depicting the same landscape in different seasons. Painted from memory, the trees seem to represent an archetypal ‘English’ tree rather than actual tree forms; a remembered, almost idealised tree.

A retrospective gallery introduces a few rather bleak early paintings of Yorkshire, followed by an explosion of colour marking Hockney’s move to sunnier climes. These vibrant, often playful works reveal Hockney’s preoccupation with exploring perspective – through Cubism, photocollages and the grid – a frequent feature of his later work.

Viewers are then treated to an abundance of landscapes celebrating Hockney’s rediscovery of Yorkshire. A series of large paintings of Woldgate Woods raises a murmur of delight: luminescent lime greens and russets draw us along dappled pathways deep into the trees. Hockney’s proliferation continues with 51 woodland pictures created on an iPad, clearly demonstrating its worth beyond internet surfing and film watching. Film watching, however, is how the exhibition winds down. The crowds converge and cease jostling to watch a series of films, each of the same scene viewed simultaneously from many varying angles:  mesmerising and at times witty.

The final monumental iPad prints of Yosemite Valle, shrouded in mist and light-laden, remind us that Hockney, at 75, is still experimenting with landscape – truly a modern master.

Eleanor Lawrence CMLI is a senior landscape architect at Capita Symonds

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